Saturday, December 03, 2011

My Dad

Today, December 6, 2011 would have been my dad's 100Th birthday. There was a time that he was positive he would live to be 100.

He was born on Fayal, one of the several islands that comprise the Azores, December 6, 1911. When he was 8 years old he and his parents emigrated to the United States. World War I prompted my grandfather to move his family to New Bedford, Massachusetts. They came into the port of New York aboard a steamship. My father remembered that their stateroom had windows. There was a large population of Portuguese people living in New Bedford. My father was put in the first grade because he could not speak English. He was so embarrassed at being the biggest student in the first grade that he learned English in 6 months and was then put in the third grade with his age group.

My grandfather worked in a mill and when my dad finished high school, he worked in the same mill for a year until he saved money to go to what is now the University of Rhode Island. During his four years he dug ditches for one of FDR's programs. When he graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree, there were no jobs, so he stayed in his frat house, dug ditches and took mechanical engineering courses. He eventually got a job at American Silk Spinning. While there he took textile courses at what is now the Rhode Island School of Design. While there he met my mom under dubious circumstances. One of the exhaust fans bound up clogged with lint. My mom was the first aid gal for the plant and she was told to go see the bright college boy who stuck his finger in the fan to spin it to see if he could clear whatever was binding the fan. He lost the tip of one finger and found his soul mate.

At some point my dad went to work for the U S Rubber Co. When WW II came he was transferred to Ankeny, Iowa to work in a munitions factory as a executive on loan. I was a baby when they left for Iowa. My dad worked a lot of hours and we lived in Des Moines. Near the beginning of 1944, we moved back to Rhode Island and dad settled in the U S Rubber plant in Providence where his career flourished over the years. We moved to Greenville, RI where we were the first family whose last name ended in a vowel. He stayed there until the plant closed and moved South. He chose to take early retirement and promptly went to work selling SRO supplies. He finally retired when he was 72.

Earlier I mentioned that he was certain he would live to be 100. He had several aunts and uncles who easily surpassed the century mark. They all lived in the Azores, where I am sure the quality of air, etc was much healthier than the industrial environment of the Northeast. Dad was 86 when he passed.

My dad was a good man, good husband and a good father who wanted what he thought was best for both of his sons. It was his desire that I study to become an engineer. I did start engineering at URI, but my heart was not in it, nor was I ready for college. After one semester I joined the Navy. I eventually went back to college after the four years in the Navy. I went eleven years at night ending with my MBA. When I graduated he told me that he was proud of me and that I did it all on my own. Yet I know my dad was always disappointed that I was not an engineer. I was well into my 40's when he told me, "I am constantly amazed that you support your family as well as you do without being an engineer." I decided that I would accept that as a compliment.

Happy 100Th birthday Dad!

4 comments:

Editing Luke said...

It's funny some of the things we remember and hold on to. I recently lost one of my best friends, he was 27 like me. I still find myself thinking about the things he said and how so many little things we did shaped the direction of my life. It's good to create context for stuff like that I think.

Elizabeth said...

me16 8da
Came across your blog by accident - I enjoyed reading about your family and your Father's story - we forget how brave people were to travel to a country they knew nothing about.

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